3 Levels of Leadership Development

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Leaders don't become leaders overnight. In fact, leaders go through three distinct phases of development. I'd like to explain the three phases and give you an opportunity to determine at which phase you may be operating.

When people are first appointed to the manager role, they tend to behave like overseers. We call this Level 1. They are just trying to figure it all out. What are we trying to do here? How do we get it done? They are basically interested in just getting the work done, and getting it done on time and on budget.

Once managers have figured out what it takes to successfully get the job done, they are ready to move from Level 1-Overseer to Level 2-Coach. Leaders at Level 2 understand that they are more successful when their people are more successful. Level 2 leaders are people-focused. They direct their energies toward understanding their people's skills, maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. To be successful at Level 2, your people have to understand your objectives. They must understand what you are ultimately trying to achieve, and the key principles for decision-making.

Let me give you an example of what we mean by principles for decision-making. Let's say someone calls our office, saying, "I took a facilitation class from your company last month, and it didn't cover any of the things I needed. I demand a refund!" I would want people in my organization to handle that call the same way I would as their leader. But this will only happen if everyone understands three key principles.

Principle 1: We are in business to make money.

Principle 2: We only deserve to make money when clients are satisfied.

Principle 3: We don't fix problems, we eliminate them.

If our people only understand Principle 1 - We are in business to make money - they might say, "Sorry, we don't give refunds." Not exactly the response we would want.

If they know only the second principle - We only deserve to make money when clients are satisfied - they might say, "We're so sorry you weren't satisfied. Here's your money plus an extra 25% for your pain and suffering." Still not quite on target.

If they understand all three principles, they should say, "We are very sorry that we did not meet your need. And we will gladly refund your money. Would you mind taking a second to explain what you were looking for and what you expected to see in the class? Hmm...I see. Well, our consulting class covers the exact topics you mentioned. So instead of a refund, if it is okay with you, why don't we have you attend our consulting class at no additional cost?"

So at Level 2, it is important for your people to understand your objectives and for you to focus on developing your people's strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. Once you have people in place who understand your objectives and can coach and develop others, you'll be ready to move to Level 3.

At Level 3, your focus is very different. We call Level 3 the visionary level. A leader at Level 3 spends time focusing on the future and what the organization needs to do to be prepared for success when it arrives. Level 3 leaders are focused on anticipating changes in customer needs, and on helping the organization to deliver faster, better, cheaper.

So let's review quickly. There are three levels that leaders develop through. Level 1 we call the overseer, and the leader is task-focused. Level 2, we call coach, and the leader is people focused. And Level 3, we call visionary, and the leader is future-focused.

Level 3 - Visionary "Forward Focus"

  • Visioning the future
  • Linking to business objectives
  • Anticipating changes in customer needs
  • Implementing continuous improvement

Level 2 - Coach "People Focus"

  • Communicating objectives
  • Delegating and grooming
  • Maximizing people's strengths

Level 1 - Overseer "Task Focus"

  • Getting tasks done
  • Staying within budget
  • Meeting deadlines

You may also want to get a copy of the books, The Secrets of Facilitation and The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, by Michael Wilkinson.

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Michael A. Wilkinson has 1 articles online

Michael Wilkinson, Certified Master Facilitator and CEO, Leadership Strategies, Inc.

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3 Levels of Leadership Development

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This article was published on 2010/03/31